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THE term " renaissance," which is commonly employed to denote
the wonderful awakening of the human spirit that heralded the
dawn of modern times, is too narrow for the purpose if taken in its
literal meaning. At best it only describes one phase of a great and
comprehensive movement, and that, as it ultimately proved, not
the most important phase. The essential fact of the situation was
not the " re-birth " of ancient modes of thought and practice,
but a determined revolt against the cramping narrowness of
medievalism and a vague but none the less insistent demand
for a larger and fuller individual life.

For a time, indeed, it seemed as if the men of the new spirit
were more keen to return to the past than to move forward to the
future. Art in its various forms sought to base itself on classical
models. A new style of architecture appeared, affecting the modes
of Greece and Rome; and the men of letters who were the fore-
runners of the great writers of modern Europe, men like Dante
and Petrarch, were foremost among the students of the classical
literature which was now being rediscovered, In the same way,
the philosophers and scientists of the age, after freeing themselves
from the servile acceptance of Aristotelian doctrines, did not, as
a rule, seek to make fresh ventures in speculation, but enrolled
themselves under other ancient masters. Even in theology, where
the breach with the past was widest, the reformers who found
themselves compelled to build up a system of faith and life which
involved a revolutionary departure from the preceding system,
concealed the fact from themselves by representing their
movement as a regress to the position of the Apostolic Church.
Everywhere the cry was " Back to the past! Back to the art and
literature and religion of the ancient world 1"

And all the while, though its creators were scarcely aware of it,
the dim outlines of a new world, as different from that of the
remote past as from that of the immediate past, were gradually